With the poor overall survival rate for lung cancer, we haven't focused much on issues that long-term survivors face. Thankfully, some of these long-term "survivor issues" are now being looked at.
One of the most common long-term side effects of lung cancer treatment is dyspnea - or persistent shortness of breath. How common is this uncomfortable symptom?
Researchers looked at over 300 lung cancer survivors who had been treated with lung cancer surgery for stage 1 non-small cell lung cancer, and had no evidence of cancer 1 to 6 years after treatment. They found that 60% of these individuals lived with some degree of shortness of breath.
The conclusion of the study was that further research is needed to look at things that may help decrease shortness of breath in lung cancer survivors. So what may help?
- Increasing physical activity - In this study, individuals who were less physically active before surgery were more likely to have shortness of breath over the long run
- Relieving symptoms of depression - Depression in this study was linked with much more shortness of breath for long-term survivors
Being a runner and having experienced temporary shortness of breath at times, my heart goes out to those who live with this symptom on a daily basis. Clearly we need to delve more deeply into ways of making life more comfortable for long-term survivors of lung cancer, just as we have for survivors of other forms of cancer.
Feinstein, M. et al. Current Dyspnea Among Long-Term Survivors of Early-Stage Non-small Cell Lung Cancer. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. 2010. 5(8):1221-1226.